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Until people speak up, nothing will change

And so once again, sports are used as a forum to measure exactly what is being taught — and what is not — in our homes.

Once again, we are left to wonder whether progress in our country is glacial, if that, in the wake of more racism at the games our kids play.

The latest: anti-Semitic taunting by the Fairfield Prep student section at a recent boys' lacrosse game in Westport.

Per the Fairfield Citizen: "According to witnesses, fans seated in the Prep student section, known collectively as the 'Bomb Squad,' chanted 'Happy Hanukkah,' 'we have Christmas' and sang 'the Dreidel Song' directed at Jewish players on the Staples High School roster. They held vulgar signs and allegedly urinated on cars in the parking lot and on the school building."

It led to the following address from Rev. Thomas Simisky, the president of Fairfield Prep:

"Our lacrosse team (won the game and) advanced, but we as a whole experienced a collective, self-inflicted loss," Simisky said. "It was a loss in many ways. That a few students led such cheers was a loss. That more students followed their lead was a loss. That no one stopped this behavior was unthinkable. Student government leaders were there, team captains were there, seniors were there, Prep students from all years were there. Why did no student stand up for what was right? For what we teach?"

And there — right there — Rev. Simisky dives head first into our societal morass. Perhaps its worst example, too: benign neglect. The failure to do what's right.

And we are left to wonder why.

And we arrive here: Because of what's being taught — and not taught — in our homes.

Maybe the most frustrating part of our educational process now makes teachers and administrators far too responsible for allotting the discipline that should start at home. Fairfield Prep kids chanted what they did because, clearly, it's been either taught or allowed to fester.

Rev. Simisky's words are powerful. Necessary. But is the barn door already open with the horse having galloped halfway to Edmonton by now?

This is what we've seen at Connecticut high school sporting events in recent years:

2014: New London High School football players, headed to their team bus with little to no security after a game in Plainfield, were called "monkeys," the N-word, and "dogs." A white New London player was called an N-word lover and other players said they were told "to go back to their cages."

2016: Wilton High School officials apologized on behalf of fans who chanted "build the wall," directed at Danbury's diverse student body.

2016: A Snapchat video showed a Fairfield Ludlowe student at a soccer game against Warde using a racial slur directed at black students.

2016: Greenwich High School's football players shouted "Hitler" as they ran onto the field, referencing the name of a play they were about to run.

2016: Farmington's white student section chanted "SAT scores, SAT scores" to black players from Capital Prep.

2016: School officials in Canton apologized to Classical Magnet in Hartford, following an incident at a basketball game. A group of Canton students chanted "Trump, Trump, Trump," while a Classical player attempted free throws. Canton High School is 87 percent white, per state data, while Classical is predominantly made of black and Latino students.

2017: A sixth-grader at Wilton's Middlebrook School found a sticky note on her locker reading "Jews will burn."

2017: A sign greeted the boys' soccer team from Morgan of Clinton when its bus pulled into the parking lot at Old Lyme High School, reading: "OUR DEFENSE IS A WALL."

The word "wall" was written in green, as in green card, aimed at Hispanic players from Morgan. It, much like the aforementioned sign in Wilton, refers to President Trump's proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

There are more examples.

And yet I bet an alarming number of you are willing to dismiss them all as fake news. Much ado about nothing. An overreaction from the snowflakes. As Day reader Tom Donnee once observed, "now we'll hear from those who deny there is racism around us, or blame it on those who point it out."

So we start here: If you think the previous references are fake news, I either envy your blissful ignorance or pity your tacit racism.

"As the president of Fairfield Prep, I take responsibility for our collective failure," Simisky said. "We as administrators did not provide adequate supervision at a sporting event, but this goes beyond. In the end, we failed to live out the values we profess. That such behavior could even seem like a good idea to some and that no one would intervene indicates a larger cultural issue that we must confront."

But how to confront the issue if said behavior is encouraged at home?

Schools can ask students to do everything shy of camping out in Dr. King's backyard. Until there is meaningful discussion in our homes about this stuff, nothing will change. Nothing.

Until people speak up — as so many failed to do at the lacrosse game — nothing will change. Nothing.

"Race is the elephant in the room," San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once said. "Unless it is talked about constantly, it's not going to get better. People get bored, 'Oh, is it that again? They are pulling the race card.' Because it's uncomfortable. There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable (because) people want their status quo."

And it's sure not going to be fixed in school. It will be fixed at home. Or it will fester from the cowardice of silence.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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